I often have people looking for the best legs and shoulders workout for building strength and visible muscle, and these exercises are the ones I start all my clients on. First, they need to know that building muscle and strength are two sides of the same coin. Increasing muscle size gives us a more significant base for building strength.
The core exercises of squats, hip thrusts, deadlifts, shoulder press, landmine press, and face pulls will build leg and shoulder strength. You will make significant strength gains by performing 3-5 repetitions of each exercise for five sets, three times a week, with progressively heavier weights.
You can also increase your future potential for strength by building muscle mass.
As a beginner, you will also gain strength as you build muscle.
These exercises I’ve listed below can be easily adjusted, whether you’re a beginner working out at home or heading to the gym.
If you are a beginner, see our posts on Perfect Shoulders Workout for Beginners and 30 Best Shoulder Workouts.
Ladies should also view Back and Shoulder Workouts for Women.
Check out the table below if you are in a hurry to see the best products to help you with these shoulder workouts.
Building Strength in Legs and Shoulders
The exciting thing about mass vs. strength is that it’s not about the exercises you do but about the weight, the timing, and the number of repetitions per set.
To build mass and strength, you’ll be doing the same exercises at a weight that allows you to do each exercise around 6-12 times a set, for about five sets.
Some trainers even suggest 20 reps per set, but then we’re moving into cardio and endurance territory (which has its benefits.)
To focus purely on strength, use higher weights closer to your one-rep max and lower the number of repetitions per set. Give yourself a longer recovery time between sets.
Each exercise I’ve listed can be used in either a strength or hypertrophy workout by simply adjusting the numbers.
Alternate leg and shoulder days, and have a rest day between.
For a shoulder and legs workout for beginners building mass, do five sets of each exercise with eight reps.
For building strength, increase the weight and do five sets of 3 reps.
If you’re pressed for time or want to add endurance training, do these exercises as a leg and shoulders superset workout. See more in The Muscle Groups You Should Pair With Shoulders.
Back and Front Squat Variations
The absolute basic beast exercises everyone should be doing.
Squats are an exercise that increases lower body strength and power and helps build a powerful core that will allow you to become fitter and stronger in everything you do. No workout is truly complete without a squat variation.
While the traditional back squat, either low- or high-bar—will increase glute and quad strength, it will also help build hamstrings and calves.
I usually start my clients with bodyweight squats to perfect form before moving them to goblet squats with a dumbbell. Focusing on the movement path with these variations avoids future strains and injuries.
Incorporate goblet squats with a dumbbell, front squats with a barbell, or barbell back squats to build strength on leg days.
See excellent barbell options below.
Dumbbell Sumo Squat
Sumo squats with a dumbbell, also known as a Plie squat, is a great squat variation that targets your glutes and quads and your hips and inner thighs, which are essential for working on stabilization.
If you’re new to squats, you can begin with bodyweight sumo squat by standing with your feet about 4 feet apart, slightly wider than hip-width.
Point your toes away from your body to a 45-degree angle, ensuring your knees track over your toes when you squat.
Keep your core muscles engaged and your spine in a neutral position as you squat to parallel.
Hold a dumbbell before you as you would for a goblet squat to add more resistance as you build strength.
See excellent dumbbell options below if you wish to get one.
A hip thrust is one of my favorite exercises for working glutes and hamstrings. It’s a beneficial exercise if you are unable to do squats.
Easier variations include bodyweight hip thrusts, single-leg hip thrusts, and dumbbell-weighted hip thrusts.
Bringing the feet closer to the body works the glutes while moving the heels further away transfers the workout to the hamstrings.
While at heavy barbell weights, the hip thrust can be challenging to set up, more and more gyms nowadays have dedicated hip thrust machines.
Get yourself a hip trust machine to use at home. See our top three options below.
If there’s only one exercise you’re going to do, make it a deadlift. A deadlift works the glutes and core much like a squat and recruits the entire body.
Train deadlift at least once a week, though variations like the sumo deadlift and my absolute favorite – the Romanian deadlift – will target other muscles.
Start with dumbbells or light barbells, and add weight to build strength.
If you’re doing a leg and shoulder workout at home, you’ll be able to go far using an adjustable dumbbell set.
Eventually, you can progress to heavier Olympic barbells at your gym, but don’t worry if you need to stick to a dumbbell-only workout.
These exercises will develop strength and help you get shredded.
For a shoulder workout for beginners building mass, do three sets of each exercise with 15 reps.
Increase the weight and do five sets of 5 reps for building strength.
Looking for more exercises, see our post with Best Calisthenics Shoulder Workouts.
Dumbbell Shoulder Press
Overhead and shoulder presses are the best exercises to build monster shoulders and increase upper body strength.
The OHP is a compound exercise that will increase your shoulder strength, improve body stability, and engage core strength.
While it’s primarily an upper-body exercise, the overhead press does require power in your lower body and trunk.
It’s also an exercise targeting your smaller muscles like the delts, forcing them to work harder and get bigger.
You can switch to a barbell overhead press once you’ve built the appropriate unilateral strength with dumbbell shoulder presses.
The landmine press is excellent for those who want to avoid shoulder fatigue due to injuries or overtraining.
You can easily set up a landmine press at home by wedging one end of the barbell into a cushioned corner.
You can perform a standing or kneeling landmine press, which is an excellent scapular stabilizer.
Face Pull With Cable Machine or Band
If you’re doing your leg and shoulder workout at the gym, use the cable machine to build yourself broader and bigger shoulders.
With a double rope attachment fixed to the high pulley of the cable machine and the handles held in an overhand grip, pull the handles toward you, arms parallel, until they are on either side of your face.
Keep the weight low and aim for higher reps.
If you’re working out at home, use an exercise band, loop it around a stable point, and pull your hands back and towards your face.
This exercise hits the upper back and shoulders and is an excellent warm-up for heavier activities.
See our top three cable machines below if you are interested in buying one.
If you stick to these legs and shoulders workouts, you’ll build up shoulder and leg strength in no time. However, you’ll find you will need to target other muscles eventually and may want to swap out some exercises or add in others.
Dumbbells can get you quite far, especially for upper-body workouts and one-legged variations in your lower-body workouts.
As you become stronger, you’ll find that you can make the most gains by following a tried and tested workout designed by a strength-training specialist according to your goals.
You’ll know it’s time to switch to a new program when your strength results begin to plateau.
Last update on 2022-10-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API